Long ago, before texting and instant messaging, your acid washed jeans wearing, Sassy magazine reading friend Kara was a fan of notes. Bubble letters, fancy folds, secret hand-offs in the hallway before class—my teenage years produced Caboodles full of handwritten notebook paper scratches, professing to LYLAS and BFF to my friends, even the occasional TLF to my current crush.
Once I met the true love of my life, for real this time, I came to treasure the handwritten notes and cards he gave to me. I keep every single one.
When I’m reading a book or watching a movie, I love when a character is so touched by something he or she reads that they pause and hold it to their heart. Cheesy? Maybe. But as a hopeless romantic and a devotee of the written word, I feel a connection to that lovelorn character, pulling the words close and sighing deeply.
Words are powerful. Love is powerful. And words and love together? That combination can alter reality.
However, the kind of love letter I want to talk about likely won’t be doodled with purple inked bubble hearts or held to someone’s chest as they pause to savor the sweetness.
The kind of love letter I’m talking about is one I hope that your sweetheart never actually reads but that you’ll write anyway.
A few months ago, I read Laura Story’s book When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without. She writes about her husband’s illness and how it changed their lives. Their story is a powerful one, but one part that struck me is a simple moment that had a major impact.
Her husband handled all of their finances, and before a scheduled surgery he was in the process of writing out the information for her “just in case.” They decided to go get ice cream instead. One thing led to another, and he never finished writing out the information.
Flash forward three months: they’ve dealt with a medical emergency that left him incapacitated and she is navigating the fall out, when suddenly utilities are being shut off and bills are overdue. A nightmare in the middle of a nightmare.
My husband’s job has given him experience talking with bereaved heirs and beneficiaries. A common heartbreak is that even when there is a good financial plan in place, loved ones planned ahead and looked out for each other, the bereaved doesn’t know how to implement it: they don’t know what the next step or phone call should be.
My husband and I divide tasks. We communicate, sure, but there are definitely areas he’s the lead in and areas I’m the one taking care of business. We realized neither one of us knew what to do to take over for each other. I’m sure we could eventually figure it out and stumble our way through, but who needs stumbles and hassles during an already difficult time?
So what can a couple do if they don’t want to be lost, trying to stand in each others shoes during a medical emergency or tragedy?
A different kind of love letter
My mom likes to tell the story of my Great Uncle Arnie and his letters to my aunt. Their love affair is the stuff of family legend and even as a kid I picked up on their devotion to each other.
Arnie worked in insurance and I’m sure witnessed his share of bereaved spouses confused about their next step. So, he wrote my aunt a letter about what she needed to know in case something happened to him. He called it his love letter and updated it annually with any new information or changes.
It sounds kind of morbid at first glance, but the longer I live and the more complicated our lives become, the more romantic that love letter of Uncle Arnie’s is to me. So Christopher and I decided to write one.
Without being too specific, here are some of the things Christopher and I are including in our love letters to each other:
- Passwords and usernames for all of the utilities, accounts, etc.
- Account numbers
- Insurance information (and make sure beneficiaries are in order)
- Procedure – exactly what to do, who to call (step by step, with phone numbers) in the event of death or incapacitation
- Passwords and usernames for social media, email, etc.
- Information for traditions (like the Portable North Pole – things we’d want to continue but that might not be on the radar as important initially)
- How to access cloud services (for example, our Shutterfly photo account)
- Where documents are located (birth certificates, diplomas, certificates, etc.)
- Warranty information
- Durable Power of Attorney
It might seem odd to call this thinking with the end in mind a “love letter.” But really, it’s an act of caring to take time now to help ease a potentially painful transition for your loved one.
Keep it someplace safe—and then my wish is that this is a love letter you write, but never need to read.
p.p.s. There are 13 e-books and one e-course on organizing (and five e-books on marriage) in the current bundle sale.